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Or what can be preventing you from confiding freely in me, your
best friend as you so often called me, as you used to do? This is
a riddle whose solution only you can give me. .. .'
In the same letter Weierstrass rather pathetically begs her to
contradict the rumour that she has abandoned mathematics:
Tchebychen*, a Russian mathematician, had called on Weier-
strass when he was out, but had told Borchardt that Sonja had
'gone social", as indeed she had. 'Send your letter to Berlin at
the old address', he concludes; 'it will certainly be forwarded to
Man's ingratitude to man is a familiar enough theme; Sonja
now demonstrated what a woman can do in that line when she
puts her mind to it. She did not answer her old friend's letter
for two years although she knew he had been unhappy and in
poor health.
The answer when it did come was rather a let-down. Sonja's
sex had got the better of her ambitions and she had been living
happily with her husband. Her misfortune at the time was to be
the focus for the flattery and unintelligent, sideshow wonder of
a superficially brilliant mob of artists, journalists, and dilettante
litterateurs who gabbled incessantly about her unsurpassable
genius. The shallow praise warmed and excited her. Had she
frequented the society of her intellectual peers she might still
have lived a normal life and have kept her enthusiasm. And she
would not have been tempted to treat the man who had formed
her mind as shabbily as she did.
In October 1878 Sonja's daughter 'Foufie' was born.
The forced quiet after Foufie's arrival roused the mother's
dormant mathematical interests once more, and she wrote to
Weierstrass for technical advice. He replied that he must look
up the relevant literature before venturing an opinion. Al-
though she had neglected him, he was still ready with his
ungrudging encouragement. His only regret (in a letter of
October 1880) is that her long silence has deprived Mm of
the opportunity of helping her. 'But I don't like to dwell
so much on the past - so let us keep the future before our
Material tribulations aroused Sonja to the truth* She was a
H.M.—VOL. II.                                        F                                                            471